For most of my life, I’ve treated Geneva as a place for business or as a stop-off ahead of a more alluring destination. This time, however, when my husband was lecturing at the University of Geneva, my son was en route to nearby Villars, and I was working in Paris – an easy three-hour train ride away – I decided we would make Geneva and its most glamorous hotel, La Réserve Genève, the center of our Easter break.
The contemporary light-filled, low-slung building arcs around a 10-acre lakeside setting, which has all the space and activities available of a resort: huge open-air and indoor pools, a kid’s club, kayaks, tennis courts and a hammam. It also houses five restaurants, including the only Michelin-starred Chinese restaurant in Switzerland (which is true to La Réserve’s roots, as a hotel group that takes its foodie credentials seriously – Le Gabriel in Paris and La Voile in Ramatuelle also have stars). But what really raises the bar here is the Nescens spa that offers comprehensive four- and seven-day anti-aging programs, and a roster of brilliant therapists, osteopaths, doctors and nutritionists.
For the more calorie-conscious, the hotel has its very own health-food emporium, Café Lauren, which doesn’t use fats and only minimal (exclusively raw) sugar and flour. After lunches taken in the sun on the terrace – Geneva enjoys a micro climate, and despite the snow still visible on the distant Alps, it was warm enough to swim and sunbathe in April – we would take the hotel’s complimentary motoscafo (a pretty wooden Riva boat made in Venice) around the lake and into town, for a stroll through the crowd-free streets, with impromptu chocolate tasting to really put us all in relaxation mode. lareserve.ch
For all its family (and business) friendliness, La Réserve really is the ultimate retreat for a sinful and sophisticated weekend away. Radiating off long, theatrical Jacques Garcia-designed corridors, the bedrooms and suites are cashmere-clad, light-filled retreats with views of the lake and enormous, sexy black granite bathrooms. They also come stocked with everything you could possibly need, from books and Nespresso machines to plates of chocolate and excellent cheese and wine.
When you sign on for even the shortest anti-aging or post-natal program, you receive a complete health screening, which includes body fat and muscle measuring, water ratio and metabolic age testing, plus an assessment of body type to see what food and exercises suit you best. There are amazing beauty and aesthetic treatments, too: a daily schedule of classes; an incredible jungle gym; and nutrition programs if weight loss is your aim. It is a destination spa that feels special and seductive enough to visit even if you’re on your honeymoon.
Like something out of 1930s Shanghai, the black lacquered and red velvet environs of the Michelin-starred Tse Fung restaurant are as seductive as the cooking itself. Here, chefs specialize in different food preparations and various wok stations, including roasting, dim sum and carving, which is raised to an art form here – make sure you order the signature Peking duck served two ways.
Tanned and toned locals use the hotel’s bar as a place to relax amid the outlandish décor in the company of the resident DJ, who plays live music from Tuesday to Saturday, or in the Summer Lodge on balmier evenings.